There are fresh reports that USF1 will fail to make the grid in next month’s season opener in Bahrain. While there has been public speculation to this effect, in no small part fueled by remarks made by Bernie Ecclestone, it now appears that USF1 is running out of time.
In a recent development, the team has canceled mandatory crash tests that were scheduled to be held in England. Clearly, the chassis is not yet ready, which means the team will at the very least miss all of the sanctioned pre-season test meetings in Spain. Testing is crucial for any new team, as they must work out teething problems and reliability issues.
Testing aside, however, if the team isn’t even prepared for a crash test at this late date, it’s difficult to see how they might possibly be prepared to go racing when practice begins for the Bahrain GP in less than a month’s time, on March 12.
As is so often the case in Formula 1, the root of the problem seems to be money. As reported in The New York Times, an anonymous source who has knowledge of the situation, said, “The bottom line is really simple. Sponsor money didn’t come through the way it was supposed to and it has grinded down the company to a halt. They’re having trouble making payroll, they’re having trouble paying suppliers and that’s the situation they find themselves in.”
Earlier this month, one of the team’s founders, Ken Anderson acknowledged this, saying, “Yeah, a couple sponsors have let us down a little bit, but we’re on track.” Amid the various rumors, both Anderson, and co-founder (and former Speed TV commentator, and Williams team manager) Peter Windsor have always been resolute in insisting that they would take their place on the grid in Bahrain.
In the wake of the current reports, however, they team has not released an official comment, and Peter Windsor, normally a voluble sort, has refused to comment. And as proof that one financial problem begets another, there is now a rumor that primary backer Chris Hurley, one of YouTube’s co-founders, is now looking at the option of switching his funding to the Campos team.
Campos, it should be noted, is facing its own funding difficulties, but unlike USF1, the team outsourced its chassis development to Dallara, the company which fabricates spec chassis for the IndyCar and GP2 series, among others. Campos has a race-ready chassis, but no budget for testing or racing, so an influx of cash from Chris Hurley would certainly help the team’s prospects.
A separate report indicates that the majority stake-holder of Campos, Jose Ramon Carabante, will assume complete control of team from team founder Adrian Campos, to ensure the viability of the enterprise. On the whole, it appears that Campos might dodge the bullets and make the Bahrain date, even if they miss all pre-season testing, which now appears likely. Sadly, it looks as though the same can’t be said for USF1.
While both teams earlier thought they might have been handed a partial reprieve when both Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt indicated that the FIA’s Concorde Agreement would allow any team to miss up to three grands prix during a season, the FIA subsequently dashed their hopes, saying that any team that missed even a single race would be in breach of the agreement, which would likely result in a stiff penalty, and expulsion from the series.